6 healthcare issues SCOTUS ruled on this term

The U.S. Supreme Court, which just closed for summer recess, issued several important decisions this term — through decisions and dismissals — that have repercussions in the healthcare industry.

Here are the High Court's healthcare decisions from this term and related reading.

1. Abortion
In two top cases, Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt and Zubik v. Burwell, the Supreme Court issued landmark decisions on abortion and contraceptive issues. The Zubik v. Burwell case, which centered on the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate, was ultimately sent back to the lower courts. Here are five things to know about the lawsuit. In Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt, the court voted 5-3 to strike down a Texas law that placed a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions. This decision impacted similar restrictions in Mississippi, Wisconsin and Alabama.

2. False Claims
In Universal Health Services v. Escobar, the Supreme Court limited the reach of the False Claims Act. It imposed limits on liability under the False Claims Act. Here are 9 things to know about the case.

3. Patent law
The Supreme Court upheld changes made by the Obama administration to patent law. At issue was a process for challenging patents called inter partes review, in which an appeals board hears challenges. Generic drugmakers hailed the decision, while brand name drugmakers did not support it because the inter partes review makes it easier to overturn patent challenges.

4. Data reporting
In Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual, the Supreme Court ruled that self-insured health plans could not be forced by a state to report claims information for use in state health pricing databases. The court ruled that a Vermont reporting law creates a burden for insurers with consistent reporting requirements and interferes with federal reporting responsibilities. The ruling affects claims database initiatives in 18 states.

5. Union fees
In Friedrichs v. California Teacher's Association, the justices voted a 4-4 deadlock in the absence of the late Justice Antonin Scalia and said it would not rehear the case. This means the vote defaults to the lower court's decision and only impacts those involved. In this case it means non-union public employees will continue to pay mandatory "agency" or "fair share" fees for collective bargaining costs of public unions. Nurses protested on the court steps in January against making the fees non-compulsory.

6. The ACA
The High Court dismissed a challenge to the healthcare reform law that was considered a long shot. The case, Sissel v. Department of Health and Human Services, centered on the law's individual mandate, which plaintiffs argued was unconstitutional. After dismissing this case, and previously upholding the law twice, a top Supreme Court lawyer said in June he thinks the ACA debate is "effectively over."


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